• Nutrition

Variety Is the Spice of Exercise

Refresh Your Workout by Changing Things Up

By Catherine D. Johnson, PhD, RD, LD

Change can be an exciting thing when it comes to working out. Making slight shifts can introduce you to new things, present interesting challenges, and make old routines seem new again. Our bodies are very efficient and will adapt to any exercise routine in approximately four to six weeks. At that point, the body needs to be challenged again. Here are some ideas for spicing up your workout with an element of change.

Dynamic Exercise, Consistent Excitement

To change up a weight-training program, vary the sets in your routine by volume, time, and reps every three to four weeks. Likewise, exercises for your cardiovascular system need to be varied to maintain excitement and sustain motivation. We've been taught to perform cardiovascular exercise for 20 to 30 minutes at a target heart rate of 60% to 80% to lose fat.

Interval Training Maintains Metabolism

Exercise scientists have discovered a method called interval training to keep the metabolism revved up. It works by increasing intensity level in small increments over time. Interval training can be done with a bike, elliptical machine, treadmill, or by walking or jogging outdoors. If you're running on a treadmill at home or at the gym, increase the speed or the incline (or both) for a higher intensity level. Here's an example of increasing intensity by intervals:

  • Begin with a five-minute warm-up at an intensity level of 3.
  • On the sixth minute, increase the intensity to level 4.
  • On the seventh minute, increase to level 5.
  • On the eighth minute, increase to level 6 or 7.
  • Then, for the next two minutes, return to level 3.
  • Repeat the whole cycle twice more and end with a five-minute cooldown at level 3.
  • Total workout time (including warm-up and cooldown) is 25 minutes.

You can also switch up your cardio plan with three weeks of interval training, followed by another three weeks of longer-duration, moderate cardio. With interval training, you can efficiently increase your metabolism and keep it increased during the next 24 hours without working out for long periods of time.

Look at change as an ally to success with your fitness goals. Don't settle for anything dull and boring when it comes to exercise. Get into a rhythm of shifting your routine every three to four weeks, and enjoy!

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